By on March 5, 2017

500e

Almost a month ago, I wrote that the Ford Focus Electric was the cheapest car in North America. Because federal, state, and local incentives are rolled into the price of a lease, along with the sizable discounts applied by the manufacturer, a $30,000 dollar EV can easily be priced below a $16,000 internal combustion model. Those piling discounts on other models have dethroned the Focus as America’s cheapest car.

Fiat’s 500e can currently be had for roughly the same price as a decent pair of sneakers, continuing the trend of bargain basement pricing on small electric cars. At $69 per month for 36 months with no money down, it’s also a better deal than the shoes — which can typically only manage a few hundred miles before becoming a tattered mess. With some evening reprieves to recharge, the Fiat can top that in a week with only the slightest hint of tread-wear. However, this incredibly low leasing rate for the $33,00 EV isn’t even the best deal of the last few months. 

On Black Friday, Orange Coast Fiat in Costa Mesa, California, had the little electric listed at $49 per month with no money down — 20 dollars below the current unbelievable price.

Why is the 500e going for so cheap? One big reason is that Fiat Chrysler never really intended to sell any. “I hope you don’t buy it because every time I sell one it costs me $14,000,” FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne said at the Brookings Institution of the 500e in 2014. “I’m honest enough to tell you that.”

The EV was developed by Fiat Chrysler specifically as a compliance car to satisfy emissions regulations in California and other states mandating the sale of zero-emission vehicles. The company never had any intent to make this vehicle a sales leader or profitable, it only exists to keep its other, less environmentally friendly, vehicles in those markets.

It has also suffered from extensive recalls and is among bottom of the pack in terms of range; while the majority of its competitors have implemented stronger battery units the 500e uses a 24 kWh lithium-ion that sustains it for 87 miles under the ideal circumstances.

The average transaction price for the Fiat 500e was $11,129 through February and the typical incentive dollars-per-unit spent was $14,463. That is an incentive spend of 130 percent of its average transaction price.

Even some of the worst deals currently available still place the 500e well below the company advertised $169/month leasing offer. Websites are offering deals anywhere between the previously mentioned $69 a month up through $149. Green Car Reports has also cited off-lease 2013 Fiat 500es as being listed on Southern California auction sites for as little as $4,100.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler] [Source: Automotive News]

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42 Comments on “The Fiat 500e is North America’s New Cheapest Car...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    I have a fantasy of driving around in one of these, searching for Smart Cars to intimidate.

  • avatar
    mleitman

    Does it come out cheaper than a C$9998 Nissan Micra? http://m.nissan.ca/en/cars/micra?next=header.vehicles.postcard.vlp.image&dcp=ppn.117083112.&dcc=0.289953760.71700000010516163

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Perhaps Governor Brown will lease 10,000 of these and have California self-insure the 10,000 for about 1 million a month (including lease). Drive your electric car, furnished by Governor Brown, to your brand new high-paying job, brought to you by President Trump. Win-win for everyone! MAGA!

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Tesla aside, it seems like the worst enemy of new electric car sales is USED electric car sales.

    Why pay $25k+ for a new Nissan Leaf when you can buy a 2013 Leaf with 20k miles for $7500? Seriously, at that price you can drive it for 4 years until it dies, then leave it by the curb for the trash guys to pick up.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Totally agree. I generally figure if you can do 2 grand a year in depreciation and repairs you have a solid value. These unloved electrics look to make that and maybe better.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Agreed. My 12 Leaf lost about 75% of its value in 3 years, and that’s if you deduct the incentives *first*. That’s one reason I leased it.

      Yet the EV community is hailing these cheap used EV prices without realizing they are a huge impediment to new EV sales.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    This (to me) looks a lot cooler than the Leaf, and thus may become the very best value high school commuter car. Especially if you can convince the school to let you have a free charging station all day long.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    This is incredibly cheap, but let’s not carried away. The $4100 used-car price cited here is a Black Book wholesale price, not retail, and most likely with some combination of high miles, poor condition, and lemon-law manufacturer buy-back status. The retail price for a decent 500e is two or three times as much…which, granted, is still a screaming deal.

    Now on to the lease. That $49 thing was a Black Friday special that required you to qualify for Chrysler’s lease conquest incentive and put down a bunch of dough; same deal with the $69 one. Although yes, you get a $2500 rebate in California, eventually, assuming there’s still money in the fund. So maybe you can get such a deal; maybe you can’t. But again, even the advertised $169 a month is a screaming deal.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      I don’t see these selling for more than a Leaf, just based on the comparative reputation of Nissan vs Fiat, and there’s a bunch of pretty nice looking lease return Leafs for under 6 grand retail ASKING price on cars.com

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        The Leaf has a serious battery-fade problem and isn’t much fun to drive. The Fiat doesn’t have either of those problems. (Nor does it have the Nissan’s cavernous interior and reputation for Japanese reliability, so maybe it’s a wash.) But I’m thinking of “reputable dealer that offers a warranty” prices; I’m sure no-name lots and private sellers will go lower.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          “The Leaf has a serious battery-fade problem and isn’t much fun to drive.”

          I have 45,000 miles on my Leaf and no battery degradation. Still get all twelve bars. Just performed all of my errands today (maybe 15 miles of driving) and I made it back home with 11 bars.

          Exactly how do you define “serious battery degradation” and where is your source of information? Early Leafs had degradation issues, but they seem to have solved the problem on newer cars.

          As far as fun to drive, if you get the SL with the 215/50-17 tires the handling isn’t bad – especially with the low center of gravity.

          • 0 avatar
            HotPotato

            Late model cars with the lizard battery do better. But presumably the newest cars aren’t what’s coming off lease.

          • 0 avatar
            peakay

            How do I define? Our 2012 has lost 3 bars in 31k miles and max range on a normal days is 50 miles. That’s how.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @HotPotato:

          I found my 12 Leaf very fun to drive, and its battery lost 15% capacity over 26k miles here in western PA (not hot Arizona which gets all the attention).

          My winter range could be as low as 36 miles, on a car whose EPA range was 73 miles. Summer range could be about 60 or so.

          mcs has a newer Leaf whose battery performance is substantially better than mine was. If mine had been that good, I might have purchased it after the lease was up. But instead, for a variety of reasons, Nissan will not be the mfr of my next EV.

          It remains the most reliable car I’ve ever owned.

          I would consider a 500e if I could get one, and if the local dealers could service it. But I don’t want a unicorn.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Just the 500 in general. FCA had to use a higher grade floorpan for the NA market and bring in a 6 speed automatic. Wonder if it’s all been worth their while?

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    I’m happy to go over the pros and cons for anyone considering a Fiat 500e. They’re ridiculously fun to drive and occasionally vexing to own.

    Rumor has it the 500e will be discontinued later this year. Given that it hasn’t sprouted a DC fast charge connector and another 20 miles of range for the new model year, unlike competitive EVs, that seems plausible.

    So if you’re interested, act now…before new ones are unavailable and used ones become collector’s items.

    BTW: The Trump administration wants to eliminate California’s right to set its own pollution standards (which it was doing long before the Feds started) and roll back recently adopted Federal MPG standards (which automakers were already acting based upon). If they are successful, and with control of all branches they probably will be, there will be no more low-cost compliance EVs. So if you want a cheap EV, buy now.

    • 0 avatar

      Its not a rumor – they stopped making the batteries to go into it already and production – if it hasn’t already – is winding down. As someone who lost 2 years of his life working on the BMS (Battery Management System) for that thing – I hope there is special ring in hell for it.

  • avatar
    kwong

    I picked up an off-lease 500e for $7,300 out the door at one of those 1-starred Yelp! used car lots. My wife drives the car 100 miles a day and loves it. I’m a cheapskate and would actually pay upwards of $15K for such a car. There are some elements of the car that seemed well thought out and others that weren’t. We’re saving about $9 a day in fuel costs, $12 a day in tolls, and my wife can reliably get to work and home in an hour at any time. This has been the best purchase I’ve made in a long time.

    We’ve added this to our low-end torque garage including the following:
    07 Lexus Rx400h
    01 VW Golf TDI
    06 Chevy Silverado 2500HD

    The 500e wouldn’t work for us as our sole car, but it’s a wonderful “appliance” and costs us about $.02 per mile because my wife’s parking garage has free 8 free charging stations. If you have the availability to charge at your destination, drive less than 50 miles on the freeway, and have access to an ICE car, a used EV can be great addition.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    Carvana had several of these with relatively low miles for between 6 and 7k recently, too. I’d totally pick one up as a daily driver. My commute is just 16 miles round trip, so this could easily get me to work and back and to any other errands I’d need to run. Fiat reliability (or lack thereof) is suspect, though. However, at least electric vehicles are relatively simpler (fewer moving parts) compared to their ICE counterparts.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Can the 500e be had throughout the USDM or is it still a Kali exclusive model?

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      I think all the states that do CARB emissions.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Thanks.

        Additional: The link says this:

        “That said, if the little Italian hatchback appeals to you and you’re a California resident looking for cheap wheels … it’s going to be very hard to beat this deal.

        The question then becomes, until Chrysler has a new and longer-range electric car, how low can Fiat 500e prices go to keep the company compliant with California’s laws?”

        If this is true, it is still Kali exclusive. This sort of thing should um, be in the piece. If I can’t benefit that’s ok, but it is a bit disingenuous to not note this.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Here in the EV wasteland of western PA, I actually saw a 500e last year – one. It had CA plates on it.

      If I bought one, I’m not sure a local Fiat dealer could even service it.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Once again forcing us Canadians to gag at the difference, in many instances between American and Canadian leasing deals.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    What unbelievable prices! Even here in Norway you can’t beat that…49$/month would absolutely justify getting this little thing to drive to and from work. It’s less than half the price of my wife’s monthly train subscription, and she drives 34 km in addition to taking the train.

    Summary of Norwegian subsidies:
    http://www.economist.com/news/business/21717063-ever-more-electric-cars-are-road-next-step-build-charging-network-support

  • avatar
    BunkerMan

    Is this even available in Canada? It’s not even on the Fiat website.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    At first, I thought this would be the ideal car for a 16-year-old driver.

    And then I pondered The 11 PM CALL: “Dad, I ran out of juice…again…like I did six times last week…”

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      We tried to interest our 16yo in a used Prius, and she said, “Dad, I don’t want a vagina car!” Still SMH. Her boyfriend drives a six-speed TJ Wrangler, and a battery electric car wouldn’t even be in the equation.

      She’s getting the hang of the 5-speed in the Forte, but I’m hoping the mileage improves – I filled it up yesterday, and it only got 20.5 mpg. Should be closer to 27 or 28 around town. I did just replace the air filter, which looked terrible. Hopefully that will help.

    • 0 avatar
      peakay

      It is great for this. My daughter has never run out – never been an issue.

  • avatar

    I’m torn…with super insider knowledge – I should be able to keep that battery (the Achilles heel second to overal FCA quality) up and running… but man that program left scars…

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      From a past life in working with lithium ion battery packs, I know the gas gauging is difficult to do.

      The early (12) Leaf gas gauge was a joke; it was optimistic when full, and pessimistic as it neared empty. It never seemed to accommodate ambient temperature, etc, and truly earned its nickname as the ‘guess-o-meter’.

      Third-party apps actually did a better job, and provided lots more data.

      Any insights you can share on the 500e?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    You’d have to be insane to buy a new one. When we were recently shopping for a car for the 16yo daughter (we ended up with a 2010 Kia Forte Koup EX with 5-speed manual), there were lots of 2-3 year-old 500es and electric Smarts on Cars.com, the Fiats going for less than $7k, and the Smarts going for around $5k.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I recently saw a new unsold 2015 500 (not the “e”) listed for $9700 (original MSRP was $23k) with 34 miles on it. Seemed like a great deal, until I checked the KBB trade-in value of the same car with 34 miles on it: $7300.

      Fiat USA is in deep, deep trouble.

  • avatar
    Paragon

    So, sadly they seem to be unavailable outside of the West coast. An orange, inexpensive little Fiat 500 looks pretty cool!

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    You can buy and operate a used one in any state. But if you need dealer service, the 500e certified mechanics are in California. There are a handful of shade-tree 500e mechanics scattered around though (longtime EV enthusiasts mostly), some on the same 500e community on Google Plus that used to have Jim Hagerman, one of the car’s engineers, lurking. (He has since moved to China.)

    • 0 avatar
      cferguson77

      I just bought 2 of these at $9500 each from Marietta Georgia. They each had less than 400 miles on them as they were fleet vehicles. I was able to get the tax credit for each since they never had a previous owner – so I got them for only $2K. Also, you can get a solid 120 miles per charge in “Ideal” conditions.


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